Annu Nieminen, The Upright Project
"I would encourage high school students to think about what do they really want to contribute to and what do they want to give to the world - rather than what do they want to get".
"When you find a way to improve something around you and give others something that is meaningful to you, you end up being happy yourself."
Annu graduated as a graduate engineer from Aalto University's predecessor, Helsinki University of Technology, in the Information Networks programme. "I ended up there a bit by chance: in high school, the most important things in my life were classical music, mathematics and writing. My head was spinning when I was thinking about my future options and where to study", Annu recalls. On her sister's recommendation, she decided to try her hand at studying engineering in Otaniemi. "I stayed for a bit longer, as technology turned out to be quite a fun thing to do".
After graduation, Annu started working as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company. Despite enjoying her challenging work, Annu felt a natural attraction to entrepreneurship. "For the first 33 years of my life, I was an entrepreneur without a career, although I have been able to start up and create many things from scratch since I was a child".
Annu eventually ended up starting her own company, the Upright Project, which focuses on building an AI-driven model to measure the holistic impact of businesses.
"Now that I've been running my first 'real' business for a year, I can say I've found the best way for me to work and make a difference in the world", she says.
Annu works closely with the team at her company: "We meet clients, solve quirky problems, code and giggle quite a lot". The best thing about her current job is the opportunity to solve a problem that feels genuinely worth the dedication. She also enjoys the freedom and responsibility of being an entrepreneur. In fact, Annu cites starting Upright after a long period of dormancy, despite other attractive options, as her greatest success. She would also do something differently: "If I started my studies now, I would study even more mathematics and other 'pure' subjects instead of applied ones, as they have helped me the most in practice in my rather creative problem-solving work".
For whom is this a suitable career option?
"Entrepreneurs are people who are comfortable carrying more responsibility than their own weight in any situation", Annu says clearly. She feels that her courageous experimentation with very different things has brought her to a point where, in addition to fulfilling herself and solving a major problem for the future of humanity, she can be happy. "I would encourage high school students to think about what do they really want to contribute to and what do they want to give to the world - rather than what do they want to get. When you find a way to improve something around you and give something meaningful to others, you'll end up happy yourself".